We scrambled out of bed at 9:50 AM to catch a 10:50 AM train to Toledo. I had set my alarm to 8:30 AM last night but it never rang. JC and I ran around the room like Speedy Gonzalez and in 20 minutes we were out the door. My eyes were barely opened but my adrenaline rush was up the roof. At 10:11AM we sprinted to our Metro stop, Alfonso Martinez, to catch a train at Atocha Station.
When we got off the Metro, it was quite a walk to the platform where our train was departing. We got lost looking for the entrance to the platform. JC led the way while I remained a few yards behind. I was nauseous and light headed. It was not a good morning. We passed by a tropical garden in the middle of Atocha Station. Unfortunately, we did not get to appreciate it. We ran around in a frenzy trying to catch the train to Toledo. We probably looked like chickens scrambling to get away from being someone’s dinner.
Luckily, we boarded the train to Toledo with 5 minutes to spare. The train was full so JC and I sat separately. I ended up being cornered by three old French ladies who couldn’t stop talking. All I wanted was some peace and quiet. The seats were spacious and I was hoping to catch some sleep so that the nauseousness would subside. I curled up into a ball the entire time. The three French ladies probably thought I was extremely hungover. I could see it in there eyes. They snootily said, “Hmph…Americans.”
It was about a half an hour train ride to Toledo on Renfe. As soon as we got off the train, I headed straight to the bathroom. I was ready to hurl but instead I released a loud, unladylike burp and felt surprisingly better. That was my cue to begin our 10 minute walk to Toledo from the train station.
We arrived at the city’s market place which used to be an Arabic meat market. It’s now surrounded by cafes, bakeries, souvenir shops and a McDonald’s. We had breakfast at a small cafe. We ordered a tuna salad croissant, a ham and egg croissant, a lemon juice and 2 shots of espresso coffee for about 7 Euros. It was the cheapest and tastiest meal we had in Madrid.
After breakfast, we visited the Iglesia De Los Jesuitas for a panoramic view of Toledo. We didn’t have a map with us so we figured it would be a good way of approximating the direction where things might be. From above, you can see the small town’s charm of cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways. The church itself has a few beautiful altarpieces but it didn’t compare to what was inside the Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada.
Also known as the Cathedral of Toledo, the Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada, is the most popular attraction in Toledo. It is also one of the most intricately detailed cathedrals I have ever seen. The architecture is magnificent inside and out. No pictures are allowed inside in an effect to preserve the cathedral. The guards had a very keen sense when it came to the presence of electronics. Also, speaker announcements were made every 10 minutes just in case you forgot. Big Brother was watching.
The cathedral is extremely impressive and grand in size but the most astonishing piece of work is the Retable of the Cathedral. It’s made of wood and almost completely gilded in gold and barred off from the public. There were so many amazing pieces of work inside the cathedral. It’s hard to understand it’s importance without a tour guide.
We did a lot of walking around Toledo. We walked through the main streets and zigzagged through the smaller cobble stone streets. I’ve gained a new found appreciation for pavement. Sure, cobblestone streets might be charming but they are not pretty on the feet. Towards the end of the day, every step was a shot of pain.
JC and I burned so much energy walking the last two days that we were constantly hungry. We had dinner when we got back from Toledo but we were hungry again around midnight. We decided to explore the neighborhood where our hotel was and found a kebab place. The owner was a Bangladeshi who immigrated to Spain 10 years ago. He speaks Spanish and English fluently. Impressive right? Well, he also speaks Bangladeshi, Urdi and Hindu. While he was preparing our midnight snack, he turned up the volume of his TV when a Pussycat Dolls music video came on – “Jai Ho.”
After our food was ready, we stopped by a 24-hour grocery store for water. It was owned by a Chinese family. We asked the woman at the register if she liked it here. She said, “I just came here not to long ago so no, not really.” We wished her a good night and left wondered how hard it must be and how much courage it must take to come to a new country and start a new life. We have much respect for people who are brave enough to do so.